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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Second chance for non-violent felons? on: June 07, 2015, 11:58:35 AM
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Current Rep alternative on: June 07, 2015, 11:38:39 AM
If the SCOTUS decision goes our way, how does this measure up?
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ebb Tide in the Golden Country on: June 07, 2015, 11:34:58 AM
204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pataki goes after CAIR on: June 07, 2015, 11:31:04 AM
The man would seem to have no chance whatsoever, but maybe this idea will resonate with some of the others , , ,
205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shooting drones on: June 07, 2015, 11:26:46 AM
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Tool using octopus on: June 07, 2015, 11:19:12 AM
207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen.Ted Cruz on defeating Islamo Fascism on: June 06, 2015, 09:44:09 PM
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fuct by Mickey Mouse on: June 05, 2015, 10:31:35 PM
209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What would Reagan do? on: June 05, 2015, 10:14:19 PM
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: June 6, 1944 on: June 05, 2015, 10:01:41 PM
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Anna Karenina Principle on: June 05, 2015, 06:42:28 PM
 Europe: The Anna Karenina Principle at Work
Geopolitical Diary
June 4, 2015 | 22:03 GMT
Text Size

Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina begins with one of the most famous lines in literature: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." According to this idea, to be happy, a family has to solve a large number of complex and interconnected problems — ranging from the management of money to coping with adultery — and not fail to deal with any of them. This concept gave birth to the "Anna Karenina principle," which dictates that a deficiency in any one of a number of factors dooms an endeavor to failure, or simply; "unhappiness."

The European Union may have chosen the poet Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy," used by Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony, as its anthem, but it has not been a happy family for a long time. The bloc grew in membership and prerogatives in the 1990s and early 2000s because everybody seemed to benefit. As long as member states were growing and unemployment was low, governments and voters supported the process of continental integration. The economic crisis changed things dramatically for Europe, and the union became "unhappy" in various ways.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

At the moment, the Continent's focus is on Greece, and rightly so. The country's deep economic crisis is a threat to the European project, if not from a financial point of view, at least from a political perspective. A "Grexit" could open the door for other countries to leave the union in a progressive fragmentation that could have unforeseeable consequences.

While most European eyes are on poor and indebted Greece, a proud and wealthy island nation is slowly but steadily moving closer to holding a referendum on EU membership. As Mark Twain might put it, reports of the death of British Conservatives were greatly exaggerated. Contradicting all opinion polls, David Cameron was easily re-elected in May and now feels more confident than ever in his push to renegotiate the European Union's founding treaties. Considering the lack of appetite for treaty change in continental Europe, the British government will soon have to decide whether it wants to campaign for what some people are calling a "Brexit."

In the meantime, more subtle processes are taking place elsewhere in Europe. In Spain, the two-party system that guaranteed political stability for almost four decades is in the process of collapsing. It could be replaced by a multi-party system where protest parties have a larger say in policymaking. In Italy, the ruling center-left government is losing ground to right-wing and anti-establishment forces that, while lacking in unity, represent the dissatisfaction of a nation facing secular economic stagnation. Even in Poland, the only EU member that avoided recession during the crisis, citizens recently punished the establishment by voting for protest and nationalist parties in last month's presidential election. In very different ways, years of economic crisis and political fragmentation are making people question the European project and the perceived elites that back it.

While the European Union is breaking apart at its edges, the core is trying to come up with answers and solutions. The economy ministers of France and Germany wrote a joint article on June 3, calling for institutional reforms to ensure greater economic convergence in Europe. According to the French and German officials, the core of this new phase of integration would be the creation of a common budget for the eurozone.

The idea seems promising on the surface, but it doesn't really address some of the European Union's key questions: Will Germany agree to share its national wealth with economically weaker countries in the south? Will France give up on its ability to collect and spend state revenue (the ultimate expression of national sovereignty)?

The past six months have been quite good for France from a European perspective. In late 2014, the EU Commission granted Paris extra time to meet its budget targets. In early 2015, the European Central Bank introduced a bond-purchasing program that led to a weaker euro — one of France's main demands. The problem for French President Francois Hollande is that France's timid recovery is not being followed by a decrease in unemployment and, even if that were the case, most French voters have already lost confidence in him. In Germany, low unemployment levels and modest economic growth have softened the impact of these unpopular measures, but German conservatives are growing increasingly restless. Chancellor Angela Merkel's own supporters are criticizing her for moving dangerously close to the center — worryingly close to France's plans for the European Union.

Regardless of what happens to Greece this year, the future of the European Union is linked directly to the evolution of the Franco-German alliance. Even if Paris and Berlin manage to keep their differences under control over the next two years, 2017 will be a turning point for the Continent. That is the year France holds presidential elections, and the main contenders could be a right-wing party and a far-right party competing to see which one is more Euroeskeptic. This is especially true if former President Nicolas Sarkozy wins the current power struggle within his party. Germany will also hold general elections in 2017, and if Merkel decides not to run for a fourth time, the rebel forces inside her party could ultimately decide that Germany will no longer make concessions for weaker European countries. Finally, voters in the United Kingdom may choose not to remain in a bloc that London failed to reform to its liking.

For decades, prosperity was the glue holding the European Union together. Now, to a certain extent, fear of the unknown has become the unifying principle in Europe. Greece will probably not leave the eurozone this year. It doesn't matter. The European family is unhappy in enough ways to break the familial bonds apart.
212  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: June 05, 2015, 03:13:25 PM

The legislature of the Mexican state of Guerrero approved an interim governor Oct. 26 to replace former Gov. Angel Aguirre, who resigned Oct. 23 amid rising political tumult following the disappearance in Iguala of 43 teaching college students known as normalistas. Aguirre's own political party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution, pushed him to resign to protect its political fortunes in its stronghold of Guerrero. As Aguirre was resigning, masked protesters in Mexico City prepared to take over the television station of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where they later broadcast a video demanding that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto locate the missing normalistas, whom the protesters alleged municipal police kidnapped on the orders of the mayor of Iguala.

The unrest in Guerrero is the latest manifestation of Mexico City's historical struggle to control the territories on its southwestern periphery, including Chiapas, Michoacan, Guerrero and Oaxaca states. The deserts, mountains and plateaus that begin outside Mexico City make for a large geographic territory difficult to control and integrate economically, leading to a substantial socio-economic divide between the core and the periphery, especially in Mexico's southwestern states. Their proximity to Mexico's core increases Mexico City's sensitivity to unrest there, given the risk of demonstrations spreading to the capital. Whether the current unrest will cause significant disruptions outside Guerrero remains to be seen. But either way, it has shined a spotlight on Mexico's ongoing struggles with political corruption, organized crime-related violence and the disparities between the urban core and rural periphery, publicity that could frighten off investors and disrupt Mexico City's security strategy.

The Sept. 26 incidents began when a group of normalistas from the Raul Isidro Burgos rural normal school in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, reportedly traveled to Iguala to steal buses to use in a demonstration on the anniversary of the Oct. 2, 1968, massacre of student demonstrators in Mexico City. According to the attorney general of Mexico, the mayor of Iguala ordered the municipal police to halt the normalistas. At some point, the police opened fire on two separate groups in Iguala that they thought consisted of normalistas and allegedly kidnapped 43 of them. The detainees were subsequently turned over to the Guerreros Unidos, a criminal group with which the mayor of Iguala and his wife reportedly have links. Shortly thereafter, normalistas began demonstrations in the state capital, Chilpancingo, and soon began garnering support from the broader teaching sector in the country's southwest, which was behind disruptive teacher protests in Mexico City in 2013.

Bad Publicity

The most immediate challenge to Mexico City — unwanted attention on the insecurity within its borders — is less serious than the struggle to control its periphery, but it is unwelcome nonetheless. Given the advent of energy reform, Mexico is now eagerly awaiting the foreign investment needed to jump-start its energy sector, but it fears that violence and unrest could scare off onshore investment. Though nationwide violence has gradually declined since its peak between 2010 and 2012, the always-restive Mexican southwest contains some of the highest levels of criminal violence in the country and the weakest local governments.

The emergence of the self-defense militias in Michoacan state and their war with the Knights Templar criminal group have served as a strong reminder to outsiders of the persistent difficulties of enforcing the rule of law in southwestern Mexico. The Sept. 26 incidents have done so as well.

(The unrest scaring off investors could get even worse if community-organized police, anti-government militants or the rural teachers of Mexico's powerful national teachers' unions join forces with the normalistas.)
Community Police

The federal government has struggled to assert its authority over much of the rural areas of Guerrero state, and the state government has had even more difficulty. Because of the federal and state governments' inability to provide sufficient public safety to rural Guerrero, large geographic portions of the state populated by rural indigenous communities contain community police forces, civilian militias currently organized under one of two coordinating bodies that serve as de facto public safety institutions for the rural communities.

Guerrero's community police are not inherently anti-government. Their demands often include calls for a greater federal security presence in their respective areas, and they often dialogue and coordinate with the state and federal governments. Community police efforts focus on preventing organized crime from preying on community members, but unlike Michoacan's self-defense militias, they have not mounted military-style campaigns.

Even so, there are strong ties between Guerrero's community police and the rural teaching sector, including normalistas. In the 2013 teacher protests, Guerrero's community police assisted in the logistics required to transport teachers from Oaxaca and Guerrero to Mexico City. Continued unrest in Guerrero could draw community police into demonstrations, encourage a geographic expansion of their operations, or trigger a new armed conflict between organized crime and community police — all of which would further threaten stability and Mexico City's authority in Guerrero. Still, the community police will be hesitant to do anything that would provoke a strong military response from Mexico City.


The poor economies, weak governing institutions and relative isolation from the core in Mexico's rural southwest have also created an environment suitable for various insurgencies that Mexico City has had to deploy military forces to quell at various times. Since the 1990s, several low-level Marxist guerrilla groups have emerged in Guerrero state. The most notable is the Popular Revolutionary Army, to which a number of attacks against federal troops and hydrocarbon pipelines during the 1990s and 2000s were attributed.

Whether any of these groups — which have not given signs of meaningful activity since at least 2007 — continue to operate remains uncertain, but normalistas in Guerrero share ideological affinities with them. Several communiques purportedly from the Popular Revolutionary Army and its suspected splinter groups have been disseminated in Mexican media outlets backing the normalistas and condemning the Guerreros Unidos. Aside from the communiques, however, no indicators of a new wave of guerrilla attacks in Guerrero have emerged.

Teachers' Unions

A more realistic threat to Mexico City arising out of the Sept. 26 unrest is that the broader educational sector will join forces with the normalistas. The lack of central authority in the southwestern states has given institutions including teachers' unions a significant degree of autonomy, freedom they jealously guard from government encroachment. The educational reforms Pena Nieto signed into law in February 2013 were taken as an existential threat to this autonomy. Resistance to the reform culminated in disruptive demonstrations in Mexico City whose participants primarily hailed from southwestern states and included normalistas from Guerrero.

Anti-government sentiment among southwestern teachers' unions remains strong, and could well expand once more in support of the normalistas. If it did, the demonstrations could reach the point of disrupting daily activity outside Guerrero, as did the 2013 teacher protests.
Iguala and Pena Nieto's Security Strategy

One of the key parts of the Pena Nieto administration's national security strategy has been transforming organized crime-related violence and public safety in general from a national security issue to a law enforcement issue. This move has involved transitioning away from using troops to patrol the streets under the reasoning that the military is a poor substitute for law enforcement and attracts unwanted attention to the country's security woes.

Mexico City will therefore be hesitant to expand the role of federal troops in Guerrero. But the growing unrest — which has led to substantial destruction of government facilities in the state — will likely necessitate an expanded military presence in Guerrero, undermining Pena Nieto's current security strategy.

How much the military presence in Guerrero state expands ultimately depends upon how much the unrest grows. While the pro-normalista demonstrations in Guerrero will likely see continued (and even stronger) support from the education sector and even from groups like the community police, the duration of this support will be limited by the participating groups' separate agendas. Either way, the unrest sparked by the Sept. 26 incidents has served as a stark reminder of Mexico's geopolitical challenges.
213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: June 05, 2015, 03:10:43 PM

    After losing much of the east to Islamic State and Kurdish rebels, the Syrian government could lose the north as Turkey and Qatar strengthen rebel forces there.
    Iran will give Damascus the support needed to secure approaches to its strongholds in the capital and along the coast.
    Russia will try to diversify its relationships in Syria as President Bashar al Assad's hold on power weakens, but it will not cut ties with the Alawite government.
    Russia will try to use the Syrian government's vulnerabilities to shape a negotiation that will attract the United States' attention, but its efforts to craft a sustainable power-sharing agreement in Damascus will fail.
    As al Assad's forces pull back to anchor themselves in Damascus and along the coast, the United States could increase the intensity of its air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria. However, it will lack a reliable ground force to complement the air campaign as regional players and rebels set their sights on al Assad.

A survey of the Syrian battlefield quickly reveals that the Syrian government is under enormous stress. Loyalist forces are clinging to the Alawite-concentrated coastal region and the core of Damascus as the approaches to both strongholds are looking more precarious. In the north, the rebels have all but taken Idlib province and are increasingly threatening the government's hold on Aleppo. In the critical central corridor, the rebels look set to advance on the government-held Hama from the north while the long-isolated rebel pocket north of Homs has become increasingly active. Furthermore, the rebels in Daraa and Quneitra continue to push up from the south toward Damascus. Meanwhile, the Islamic State is staging powerful attacks against government forces to the east of the Homs-Hama corridor after having consolidated its gains in the eastern desert.

It would be an exaggeration to say the government is cornered, but Syrian President Bashar al Assad and his troops are most certainly on the defensive and in danger of losing northern Syria. A confluence of more assertive external sponsorship, the distracting spread of Islamic State activity and a willingness among increasingly competent rebel factions to set aside their ideological differences and focus on the fight against al Assad have all led to the government's current predicament. Syrian Alawite and Hezbollah morale has plunged dramatically as momentum has risen among the rebels. In the coastal Alawite stronghold of Tartus, locals used to profess their loyalty for al Assad with the chant, "Al Assad, or we set the country on fire." Now, the proliferating mothers of the martyrs bitterly chant, "God willing, we will witness the funeral of your sons," in reference to the sons of the president.

Damascus Looks for Outside Support

In the government's time of need, it can only look to two key sources of external support: Iran and Russia. Iran understands the criticality of sustaining a friendly government in Damascus and a lifeline to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Financial aid from Iran still appears to be flowing into Syria, along with advisers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and various Shiite militia reinforcements who are deploying across the country to the front lines in Daraa, Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and more recently Idlib, where the government is preparing a counterattack. Retaking Idlib will be a critical step toward the government's goal of securing the coast, though its success is not assured.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah is sounding the alarm over a pocket of Jabhat al-Nusra militants in the outskirts of the Sunni town of Arsal in northeastern Lebanon, across from the Qalamoun Mountains. Hezbollah had previously flushed out these rebels to safeguard a corridor through Damascus and Homs to the Syrian coast. Hezbollah is steadily being drawn into more pressing battlefronts across Syria. At the same time, the organization is consolidating its hold on western Qalamoun by attempting to secure Zabadani while struggling to compel a weak, unmotivated and divided Lebanese army to extricate the politically delicate Arsal rebel pocket on Hezbollah's behalf. Unable to rely on the army to do the job, Hezbollah will carry out the Arsal operation, which will in turn raise the risk of sectarian violence in Lebanon.

Russia does not appear to be as willing as Iran and its proxies to make grand sacrifices for the Syrian government. In the past several days, Stratfor has received indications from Russian contacts in the region that Moscow's stance regarding Syria is changing and that Russia could withdraw, or at least start restricting, military support for the Syrian government. Iranians can compensate for a reduction in Russian technicians and planners in Syria, but a critical component of Russian support is the supply of spare parts to the Syrian air force. A Stratfor source signaled that the Kremlin believes the Syrian government's fight is futile and that it is time to start creating distance between itself and al Assad. An extensive report published May 31 in the Saudi-owned and anti-al Assad media outlet Asharq Al-Awsat elaborated on this sentiment. Citing its own sources, the report claimed Russia had withdrawn some 100 senior diplomatic and technical officials, many of whom worked at the main operations center in Damascus and were involved in conducting military strategy.

However, this is only part of the story. Russian leaders can see the battlefield as plainly as anyone else can. The Islamic State remains a formidable force and a powerful inspiration to Chechen jihadists that could wreak havoc back home in Russia. At the same time, radical Islamist fighters have spearheaded the major rebel push in the north while moderate forces struggle to maintain their relevance in the fight. In giving up on the government, Russia would be assuming that there are other actors to work with in preserving Russia's interests of maintaining a military foothold on the Mediterranean, some level of influence in the region's sectarian battlespace and the means to counterbalance jihadists who would carry their ambitions back to the northern Caucasus. At the moment, Russia has no such alternative.

Russia lacks the option to give up entirely on the Alawite government. But that does not mean Moscow will decline the chance to turn the Syrian conundrum into an opportunity when it comes to Russia's relationship with the United States. Washington can see the battlefield momentum lies with an array of radical Islamists who will demonize the United States along with the Syrian government. Though the United States is working more closely with regional players Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in selectively sponsoring Syrian rebel factions, it cannot effectively channel the direction of the fight against the Islamic State when that goal is competing with the aim of toppling Iran's ally in Damascus and strangling Hezbollah in Lebanon — a tantalizing prospect for the Sunni powers of the region.
Russia's Motivations in Syria

Just as Russia swooped in with an exit strategy for the United States in 2013 when it presented a plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons, it is now trying to draw the United States into a political settlement on Syria that will preserve an Alawite-heavy government, even if al Assad does not lead it. To that end, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who owns the Syria file in the Kremlin, has been trying to organize a Geneva conference that would include both Sunni regional players and Iran to work toward a power-sharing agreement.

The plan will not work, though. The Syrian civil war has devolved to a point where outside powers will have enormous difficulty in trying to impose a political reality on the deeply fractured country. Russia and Iran have some leverage with the Syrian government when it comes to drawing it toward a negotiation, but no one effectively speaks for the radical rebel factions that are most relevant on the battlefield. The United States and Russia may believe the fight is going too far in Syria, but there is little indication that the Turks, Qataris and Saudis are growing uncomfortable with its trajectory. On the contrary, their political designs for Syria are only now taking shape as the country's northern belt rapidly slips from Alawite hands. Though the region's Sunni powers do not have strong influence over Jabhat al-Nusra, it nonetheless will be important to see if Russia gets Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to bring Islamist coalition Ahrar al-Sham to the negotiating table in the days and weeks ahead.

The Syrian government will double down on securing the approaches to its strongholds in Damascus and along the coast, holding out for an opportunity to thrust northward again toward Aleppo. Meanwhile, Turkey and Qatar will work on reinforcing the rebels' hold in the north while Saudi Arabia and Jordan continue to fuel the rebellion from the south. Russia will try to recast itself as a more neutral player in the conflict by spreading the message that it is distancing itself from the Syrian government while seeking out new partners. However, Moscow cannot afford to completely cut ties with the Alawites while it lacks a credible alternative. Moreover, a complete severing of ties between Moscow and the Syrian government would manifest in deep discord between Iran and Russia because Iran would be left alone to preserve the government in Damascus. So far, there are no signs that Iran is reacting to a fundamental shift in Russia's position on Syria.

The question, then, is how long the United States can remain in limbo, supporting nominally moderate rebel factions without actually controlling the direction of the insurgency. The United States' core interest in Syria is to contain the Islamic State, not to impose government change and be left with the messy aftermath of the transition. There is still room for the United States to significantly escalate its air campaign in Syria. If the Syrian government is forced to fall back to its core positions, abandoning most of the north and east, the United States will have to worry less about being perceived as providing air cover to government forces as its air campaign targets Islamic State positions. Stratfor will be watching for shifts in the U.S. military strategy in this direction. Still, any strategy to defeat the Islamic State on U.S. terms requires a reliable ground force to complement a heavier air campaign — a goal that remains elusive.

214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: ISIS goes world-wide on: June 05, 2015, 01:44:41 PM

Seth G. Jones
June 4, 2015 7:12 p.m. ET

As Islamic State advances in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, there is a deadly twist in the war. The radical Islamist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is now expanding in roughly a dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia by exploiting local grievances, doling out money and leveraging its battlefield successes.

Even as the United States struggles to combat Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, swift U.S. action is urgently needed in these new Islamic State outposts to stop and ultimately reverse the group’s spread. The May 29 suicide bombing of a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia, the second recent attack on that predominantly Sunni nation, shows how undaunted Islamic State has become.

The expansionist strategy is not new. In the spring of 2014, as the group was attempting to consolidate its hold on the Syrian city of Raqqa and preparing to conduct a blitzkrieg into Iraq, Islamic State leaders reached out to militant groups in such countries as Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Yemen, Algeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their goal was to increase Islamic State’s influence and recruit fighters to come to Iraq and Syria.

Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State had just formally split with al Qaeda following a series of personality, ideological and command-and-control disputes. Referring to himself as Caliph Ibrahim ibn Awwad, Baghdadi unabashedly explained his desire to establish a Pan-Islamic caliphate: “O Muslims everywhere, glad tidings to you and expect good. Raise your head high, for today—by Allah’s grace—you have a state and caliphate, which will return your dignity, might, rights, and leadership.”

Since that declaration, Islamic State’s strategy of expansion has included several components.

First, the group has attempted to exploit local grievances and leverage established militant networks. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example, Islamic State leaders reached out to disaffected Taliban commanders.

Following the death of several Pakistan Taliban leaders, Hafiz Saeed, who is currently the head of Islamic State’s South Asia branch, became increasingly disenchanted with the Pakistan Taliban. Saeed had apparently been one of the main contenders for the Pakistan Taliban’s top spot, but he was passed over. This discontent provided an opening for Islamic State, which began to woo Saeed and his network. Islamic State used a similar strategy with disaffected Afghan Taliban in Helmand and Farah provinces.

Second, Islamic State has given money to prospective allies. The group has accrued substantial financial resources in Iraq and Syria from smuggling oil, selling stolen goods, kidnapping and extortion, seizing bank accounts and smuggling antiquities. In Nigeria, for example, Islamic State used its booty to aid cash-strapped Boko Haram, which had suffered military setbacks at the hands of the Nigerian and neighboring government forces.

Third, Islamic State’s victories in Iraq and Syria, which have been broadcast around the world by an effective social-media strategy, have attracted more sympathizers across the globe. The group has been able to retain—and, in some areas like Ramadi, to expand—control of territory in Syria and Iraq, despite a withering U.S. air assault and Iraqi and Syrian government offensive operations. These successes have attracted a coterie of followers in Africa, other countries in the Middle East, and Asia.

In Libya, for example, Islamic State sent emissaries in late 2014 to meet with extremist groups like Ansar al-Shariah to establish a formal relationship. Islamic State fighters now control key sections of Libyan cities like Surt, along the Mediterranean coast. And in Egypt leaders from the group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, based in Sinai, pledged their loyalty to Islamic State after its battlefield victories in Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. response outside of Iraq and Syria has been tepid. U.S. officials initially understated the threat. Some argued that its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, was largely defeated and no longer represented a significant threat. As U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, President Obama said the U.S. was “leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” In an interview published in early 2014, Mr. Obama dismissed Islamic State fighters as a “jayvee team” compared with al Qaeda.

What’s more, the U.S. and its allies did not shore up sufficient support in vulnerable countries. In Libya, the U.S., France, and Britain helped overthrow Moammar Gadhafi. But they failed to provide sufficient resources to build a competent successor government, eschewing anything that smelled like nation-building.

Libya quickly faced massive challenges. The bureaucracy collapsed, and well-armed militias controlled much of the countryside. Islamic State and other jihadist groups took advantage of the vacuum. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military withdrawal and closure of bases in Konar, Nangarhar and Helmand provinces have helped create a similar vacuum.

Islamic State will undoubtedly face hurdles in some countries because of a crowded market of jihadist groups and the absence of an ideology with strong local roots. Islamic State’s brand of Islam is not native to many countries where it is trying to expand, and the stigma of a foreign ideology may be a substantial barrier.

Still, Islamic State has increased its operations overseas and is now linked directly or indirectly to attacks around the globe in Paris, Ottawa, Brussels, Copenhagen, Sydney and Garland, Texas. There have also been arrests of individuals affiliated with Islamic State in such American cities as New York and Minneapolis for plotting attacks or planning to fight with Islamic State overseas.

A successful U.S. response must now go beyond countering Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It should begin with an accurate diagnosis of the group’s expansion. The U.S. must then work with international partners in endangered countries such as Libya to undermine Islamic State’s ideology, cut off its sources of income, target its key leaders and assist local governments. Failure to do so will result in more Islamic State victories.

Mr. Jones is director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp., and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies. He is the author of “Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qa’ida since 9/11” (W.W. Norton, 2012).

215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Erdogan and the Kurds on: June 05, 2015, 09:57:03 AM

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, revered and reviled in almost equal measure in Turkey, is at risk of becoming a victim of his own success. His political opponents, fearful of losing yet another election to him, have united around the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the upcoming parliamentary vote. And ironically, it is precisely Erdogan’s peace process with the Kurds that has made this coalition against him possible.

It is no secret that Erdogan is trying to amend the constitution to establish a presidential system. This will only be possible if the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wins 330 seats or more, which will allow it to call for a referendum on the issue. The HDP — often affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), due to its politicians’ close ties with the organization — will be a game-changing actor in determining the distributions of seats in the Turkish parliament. If the HDP manages to pass the 10 percent threshold for representation in parliament, it will be almost impossible for the AKP to win enough seats to call for a referendum to amend the constitution.

    The HDP has moved aggressively to appeal to voters beyond its traditional Kurdish base during the current campaign.

The HDP has moved aggressively to appeal to voters beyond its traditional Kurdish base during the current campaign. The party’s supporters did not carry pictures of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan during a rally held in Istanbul on May 31, but rather held pictures of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk has always been a controversial figure among Kurds: As his biographer Andrew Mango wrote, the former president aligned government policy to the “assimilation of all the country’s citizens to Turkish culture.” Since the foundation of Turkey, there have been numerous Kurdish rebellions that aimed to protest or overthrow the Turkish Republic’s exclusionary ethnic politics and inhumane treatment of its own Kurdish citizens. The last Kurdish rebellion cost more than 30,000 lives after a 30-year armed conflict between the PKK and Turkish military.

But times are changing. After successive futile attempts to solve the Kurdish issue, the Erdogan-led government announced a comprehensive peace settlement. It involves direct talks with Ocalan, who some Turkish politicians have long called a “baby-killer,” and offers the country’s Kurdish population many of their long-denied political, cultural, and economic rights.

This peace initiative sparked harsh reactions among opposition. Turkish nationalism is the founding tenet of both the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) — both of which have been reluctant to meet Kurdish demands and label the PKK as an illegitimate, terrorist organization. “Isn’t treason the lightest word?” Minister of Parliament Devlet Bahceli asked rhetorically about the peace talks — which he defined in 2014 as “plotting against the state and nation … and dynamiting our national unity and solidarity.”

In an ironic twist, however, these very same opponents of the peace process now see the HDP as the last hope to avert Erdogan’s goal of implementing a presidential system. The daily newspaper Hurriyet, for instance, runs the slogan “Turkey belongs to the Turks,” and has long been an adamant defender of the Turkish army’s oppressive and bloody campaign against the Kurds. Now, however, many of its columnists openly praise the HDP. Ahmet Hakan, probably the daily’s most popular columnist, described HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas’s stance against Erdogan as “creative, provocative, and impressive.”

This attempt to use the HDP to restrain Erdogan not only extends to domestic Turkish groups but to international outlets as well. The Economist asked Turks to vote for the Kurdish party in a recent editorial, saying “It is the best way of stopping their country’s drift towards autocracy.” It marks a strange break for a magazine that once backed conservatives like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and George W. Bush to throw its weight behind a socialist party in Turkey.

It’s a strange split, but pollsters suggest that the AKP will lose votes to both the HDP and the party most openly hostile to the Kurds. Nationalist AKP voters, frustrated with Erdogan’s opening to the Kurds, are inclined to switch their vote to the right-wing MHP, which is expected to increase its vote share to 16 percent from 14 percent in the 2011 parliamentary election. The HDP looks to gain as well with votes from two crucial blocs: Kurds who used to vote for the AKP in past elections and secular, middle-class Turks who are adamant about weakening the AKP.

The HDP and PKK have been quite successful in their campaign to convince Kurds that the Turkish government has supported the Islamic State and al Qaeda affiliates in their fight against Kurdish rebels in northern Syria. This campaign reached its zenith during the Islamic State’s siege of Kobani, when the HDP called on its supporters to stage street protests that turned into violent clashes between pro- and anti-PKK groups, which resulted in the deaths of about 50 people. This dynamic has pushed formerly pro-AKP Kurds into the HDP camp.

    For urban, middle-class Turks, the peace process has finally made the HDP a viable option for expressing political opposition.

For urban, middle-class Turks, the peace process has finally made the HDP a viable option for expressing political opposition. The ceasefire that has accompanied the talks has allowed the HDP — which used to be banned due to its affiliation with the PKK — to distance itself from armed revolt and refashion the movement as a left-leaning, pro-democracy party. Demirtas, for instance, has taken a very sympathetic line toward the 2013 Gezi Park protests, which were celebrated by middle-class Turks as a “resistance” against AKP policies. While the HDP at the time took a more equivocal stance, Demirtas now emphasizes that the protests were a noble cause, in which deputies from the HDP actively took part. The party also released a statement on May 31, the second anniversary of the protests, accusing the government of suppressing those “who wanted to use their democratic rights” and saluting the Gezi movement as “the resistance that will shed light on the way to establish a democratic future.”

While this anti-Erdogan posture benefits the HDP, no one seems to be certain whether the party will pass the 10 percent electoral threshold necessary to win seats in Parliament or not. The polls estimate that the party will receive between 9 percent and 11 percent of the vote, with a margin of error around 2 percent. Demirtas told me earlier this year that his party credited its gains in past elections to Kurds who previously used to vote for the AKP — implying that urban, middle-class Turks remained loyal to their traditional party, the CHP. The HDP’s success in the upcoming election depends on its ability to make further gains within this voting bloc.

However, the HDP could also become the victim of its own success. If the AKP wins fewer than 275 seats, it will have to form a coalition government — and its most likely partner is the right-wing MHP. This does not necessarily mean an end to the peace process, but it will be more difficult for the new government to implement Kurdish demands due to the staunch nationalist agenda of the MHP.

The AKP has been running a smart campaign, which includes officials raising the alarm bell that the party’s votes have declined significantly and insinuating that there is therefore a possibility of a coalition government. Turkish people have a very traumatic memory regarding the coalition governments that dominated the 1990s and associate them with economic crises, political instability, and stagnation.

How this will play out on election day remains unclear. But William Shakespeare’s observation in his play, The Tempest, would no doubt sound familiar to Turkish politicians: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ/Strassel: Clinton charity begins at home on: June 05, 2015, 09:41:09 AM
Kimberley A. Strassel
June 4, 2015 7:17 p.m. ET

The scandal of the century at the IRS was that agency’s secret targeting of conservative nonprofits. Perhaps a close second is the scandal of what the IRS hasn’t been investigating: the Clinton Foundation.

The media’s focus is on Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, and whether she took official actions to benefit her family’s global charity. But the mistake is starting from the premise that the Clinton Foundation is a “charity.” What’s clear by now is that this family enterprise was set up as a global shakedown operation, designed to finance and nurture the Clintons’ continued political ambitions. It’s a Hillary super PAC that throws in the occasional good deed.

That much is made obvious by looking at the foundation’s employment rolls. Most charities are staffed by folks who have spent a lifetime in nonprofits, writing grants or doing overseas field work. The Clinton Foundation is staffed by political operatives. It has been basically a parking lot for Clinton campaign workers—a comfy place to draw a big check as they geared up for Hillary’s presidential run.

The revolving door is spinning quickly these days. There’s Dennis Cheng, a finance director for Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 bid, who went to the Clinton Foundation as its chief development officer. There he built a giant donor file, which he earlier this year took with him to head up fundraising for the Clinton 2016 campaign. There’s Katie Dowd, who raised $100 million as Mrs. Clinton’s new media director in 2008, then went to a Clinton PAC, then to the State Department, then to the foundation as a “tech adviser.” She’s now at Clinton 2016 as digital director.

Some operatives don’t even bother feigning separation. Longtime aide Cheryl Mills served as general counsel to Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign, then worked at State. She then joined the board of directors of the foundation and remains on it still, even as she works on Clinton 2016. Nick Merrill, an aide to Mrs. Clinton at State, has continued on as her press liaison. Last year his name popped up on a news release as a contact person for the Clinton Foundation. Mr. Merrill will be a campaign spokesman for Clinton 2016.

Maura Pally was until recently the acting CEO of the Clinton Foundation. Her training for this important job was working as a lawyer in the Clinton White House, as a counsel to Hillary 2008, and in cultural affairs at the State Department. Valerie Alexander is the foundation’s chief marketing officer, and the woman responsible for turning the outfit into a Clinton PR machine. She worked as a senior communications adviser for Hillary 2008.

Amitabh Desai is the foundation’s foreign policy director. He was a legislative aide to Sen. Hillary Clinton. Craig Minassian is the foundation’s chief communications officer. He worked on Hillary 2008. Ira Magaziner is CEO of the Clinton Health Care Access Initiative. He is one of the Clintons’ oldest advisers. Bari Lurie, chief of staff to Chelsea Clinton, worked on Hillary’s Senate campaign and her 2008 run, and for her PAC. Erika Gudmundson is the foundation’s deputy director of communications initiatives. She was a press aide for Hillary 2008. You get the point.

The question isn’t how or whether these folks will help with Clinton 2016, but when and in what capacity. Ditto more than a dozen other staffers at the foundation who lack long histories with Clinton but who came straight out of politics—either working for the Democratic National Committee, other politicians or super PACS.

The other question is how many more operatives are cashing foundation checks that we don’t know about—as “consultants” for the group. We now know longtime Clinton pal Sid Blumenthal drew $10,000 a month. For what?

Then there’s Mrs. Clinton’s longtime aide, Huma Abedin, who worked as traveling chief of staff during the 2008 campaign, then went to State. There she was granted a special arrangement to continue earning money as a private-sector consultant. Among those she consulted for? The Clinton Foundation. Ms. Abedin has transitioned back as vice chairman of Mrs. Clinton 2016 campaign. There are surely more.

This is typically Clinton, which means it is typically on the edge of legal. The foundation operates as a nonprofit, raising hundreds of millions as a “charity.” We know from foundation tax filings that it spends an extraordinary portion of its funds on travel and staff. How many donors are unaware that their money is going to keep Clinton friends in full employment? How many are aware and give precisely for that reason—to help elect a new president, one who will gratefully remember their help?

Lucky for the Clintons, nobody looks. As a charity (and unlike a super PAC), the foundation is subject to almost no oversight. The IRS in the past has stripped charities of their tax-exempt status when they are shown to be operating for a purpose other than benevolence. The agency has shown no real interest in the Clinton Foundation. Go figure.

Clinton allies are insisting to all who listen that the foundation exists to do good. It does. It exists to do very good things for Hillary and Bill and all their longtime allies. And in that, it has succeeded beautifully.

Write to
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: Choosing a Path on: June 05, 2015, 09:36:50 AM
Presidential candidates have begun to nibble around the edges of the most important question of 2016, which is what approach we should take toward the world in the 21st century. This of course is not only an international-affairs question. Foreign-policy decisions bring domestic repercussions and effects. Sometimes they are dramatic and sometimes long-lasting.

The political scientist and global risk strategist Ian Bremmer, a foreign-affairs columnist at Time, has written a book asking Americans themselves to decide what our policy should be, and offering what he sees as three central options.

“America,” he writes, “will remain the world’s only superpower for the foreseeable future. But what sort of superpower should it be? What role should America play in the world? What role do you want America to play?”

The world is in flux, its tectonic plates shifting: Old settlements and dispensations are falling away, new ones are having rough births. No one knows what comes next. No American consensus has emerged. President Obama himself has never chosen or declared a foreign-policy vision, which has made nothing better and some things worse.

The worst choice now, says Mr. Bremmer, is to refuse to choose. We can’t just continue improvising—that has become dangerously confusing to our allies, our rivals and ourselves.

So what way do we want to go?

Mr. Bremmer calls the first option “Independent America.” We can’t be the world’s policeman; we’re not Superman. We must “declare independence from the need to solve other people’s problems and . . . finally realize our country’s enormous untapped potential by focusing our attentions at home.” We spend too much on the military, which not only adds to our debt but guarantees our weapons will be used: “Policymakers will find uses for them to justify their expense,” which will “implicate us in crises that are none of our business.”

In this view, our national-security bureaucracy threatens our own freedoms and strains relations with allies. The hidden costs of war include individual anguish, cultural stress and a demand for secrecy that “poisons American democracy.” Drones seem neat and effective, but their use is dangerous: “Our actions in the Middle East and South Asia make us more vulnerable at home, by persuading a new generation of Pakistanis, Yemenis, and others that it’s better to attack Americans who aren’t wearing state-of-the-art body armor.” Not every country wants democracy. “For all the damage a foolish foreign policy inflicts on US interests abroad, the greatest damage is done in the United States.” It follows that we must reorient our thinking: “It is not power that makes America exceptional. It is freedom.”

Is “Independent America” a pleasant term for isolationism? That charge, Mr. Bremmer argues, “is not meant to shed light but to close conversation”—to dismiss “every legitimate reservation that ordinary Americans have” about U.S. foreign-policy excesses and miscalculations. The best way to promote our values around the world is by “perfecting democracy at home.” Among the priorities: protect the U.S. from a terrorist attack “that might push America permanently off course,” protect our borders and infrastructure, clean up and invest in public education, put more money back in taxpayers’ pockets. Stronger at home will mean stronger in the world, which will note our renewal.

The second choice, according to Mr. Bremmer, is “Moneyball America.” The job of U.S. foreign policy is to make the U.S. safer and more prosperous, full stop. Some things must be done in the world, and “it’s in America’s interest for Americans to do them.” But we are not Hercules, and our resources are finite. We must focus our attentions “where they are best able to promise U.S. national security and economic opportunity.”

We should lead international efforts against terrorism, join coalitions of the willing, build partnerships—“Never walk alone”—do more with less, keep our eye on the bottom line. Our military should be state-of-the-art, but we should look to make the arms race into a trade race. Look to America’s value, not its values. There is no bias toward projecting strength; the U.S. should get over its obsession with looking weak. “Those who make American foreign policy and those who implement it must be guided by both discretion and humility.”

At the end of the day, Mr. Bremmer says of the world, “everyone . . . is playing Moneyball.”

The third choice he calls “Indispensable America.” This involves a burly, all-in commitment to international leadership. It has practical and idealistic aspects; it is a long-term project but one consonant with our greatness as a nation. “America can never establish lasting security and prosperity in the interconnected modern world until we have helped others win their freedom.” We are called to “promote and protect” American values globally. “No one else will fill this breach.” We are the world’s only indispensable nation because only we have the means and will to stabilize international politics and the world economy. America is exceptional, and its work is not finished. “America must now think bigger and in more ambitious terms” than ever before. “We must build an entirely new foreign policy” based on the insight that in a globalized world “we can’t succeed unless others succeed too.” Get over ideas like peacetime and wartime: “We live in a world of permanent tension.” We can’t solve every problem, “but this does not excuse us from the responsibility to solve the ones we can.” As to cost, “the United States can pay its debts by simply printing more money.” At the end of the day the dollar will still be the world’s reserve currency—still the safest port in the world economic storm.

As I read, I found myself wondering how a politician would react. I think he’d find it all both too abstract and too concrete. He would want one from column A (independence of action and a shown concern for the home front), one from column B (of course safety and prosperity are paramount) and one from column C (a known willingness to use unquestioned military power can be a handy thing in the world).

Politicians hate to speak about their vision of America’s immediate place and role in the world for several reasons. They have risen in the ad hoc, provisional, moment-to-moment world of daily politics. That life teaches you long-term plans don’t have to be part of your long-term plan. In foreign policy especially, declaring a clear stand wins you committed enemies and tentative friends. Best to dummy up and speak in generalities.

But at a certain point all the candidates for president, even Hillary Clinton, will have to give a sense of what’s in their heads. They hope to guide U.S. foreign policy for the next eight years. It isn’t asking too much to that they speak about where we are and where we ought to be going.

Mr. Bremmer gave his choice at the end of the book. It seemed to me surprising from one who appears to have thrived in the heart of the foreign-policy establishment. He felt the tug of each course but in the end came down for Independent America, and for interesting reasons. Candidates especially could get the book and find out what they are.
218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Gov. Rick Perry on: June 05, 2015, 09:31:34 AM
second post

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry on Thursday joined the elephant herd running for President. And while the Beltway crowd considers the 65-year-old a long shot, he deserves as much of a hearing as anyone else given his impressive 14-year record as a reform conservative.

In 2012 Mr. Perry jumped into the presidential race late and unprepared. He stumbled during debates and couldn’t parry Mitt Romney, who pounded him for the non-sin of supporting a state law allowing in-state tuition for children brought into the country illegally.
Opinion Journal Video
Wonder Land Columnist Dan Henninger on the Texas governor’s run for President. Plus, can anyone reverse President Obama’s executive overreaches? Photo credit: Getty Images.

Mr. Perry must also overcome a dubious Austin grand jury indictment charging him with two felonies. His heinous crime? He threatened to use his line-item veto to strike funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit unless DA Rosemary Lehmberg—who had been found drunk in her car—resigned. Unlike many of President Obama’s actions, this was a constitutional exercise of executive power.

In any case, the indictment shouldn’t distract from Mr. Perry’s Texas record of political and economic success. In 2001 he was lucky to inherit a relatively prosperous state. Texas’s chief economic advantages include its lack of personal and corporate income taxes. It’s also a right-to-work state, which has weakened labor unions.

Yet Mr. Perry deserves credit for growing this political endowment. In 2003 the state capped damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000, which has helped cut providers’ insurance premiums by nearly half. This has attracted more doctors to the Lone Star State to accommodate increasing patient demand.

In 2005 Mr. Perry signed a workers compensation reform that has helped slash business insurance premium rates by half. A 2011 “loser pays” tort reform has reduced the cost of business by warding off frivolous lawsuits.

The Tax Foundation ranks Texas’s business climate tenth best, and the state’s growth spurt vindicates the Perry formula of low taxes and a light regulatory touch. Between 2000 and 2010, Texas gained a net 781,542 domestic migrants—second only to Florida—while California lost 1.9 million, according to the Manhattan Institute. Last year Texas boasted the three fastest-growing counties with populations above 250,000 (Fort Bend, Montgomery and Williamson).

Between January 2011 and 2015, Texas had the third-highest job growth in the country at 12.5%, after North Dakota (22.3%) and Utah (13.9%). That compares to 10.5% in Florida, 6.2% in Ohio, 6.1% in Wisconsin and 4% in New Jersey. During Mr. Perry’s tenure, Texas created more than three of every 10 new jobs in the U.S. The only states that experienced faster economic growth between 2000 and 2013 were Alaska, Wyoming and North Dakota.

Liberals are trying to dismiss Mr. Perry’s record by attributing this success to the fracking boom, as if exploiting opportunities is unfair. Yet the oil and gas industry constitutes only 13% of the state’s economic output and 2.5% of its employment. Even amid the fracking bust over the last year, employment has grown in every industry save mining and manufacturing, according to Texas A&M University’s Real Estate Center.

These columns have criticized Mr. Perry for using government handouts to attract businesses to Texas. Yet his recent renunciation of the Export-Import Bank in these pages suggests an epiphany on corporate welfare. Voters will have to judge how much progress Mr. Perry has made as a presidential campaigner. But promising to bring Texas prosperity to the rest of the country is bound to intrigue voters suffering from the stagnant real incomes of the Obama era.
219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Of Hills and Dales on: June 05, 2015, 09:23:20 AM
220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gov. Rick Perry on: June 05, 2015, 08:51:06 AM
I admit to being surprised, but I thought Perry's announcement speech, and his extensive interview with Hannity afterwards (Hannity actually behaved himself and asked fair and balanced questions!) were both quite strong.  The man clearly has been boning up on foreign affairs since last time and I thought he spoke well and persuasively about them.   His talking points about what he did as governor are quite strong (e.g. 1/3 of the jobs created during the Obama years were in Texas).  Indeed, in many ways he appears to be a very well rounded candidate: strong executive experience with proven results.   Of course there is the "Oops!" thing, but he appears emotionally centered and comfortable in responding when it comes up.   The man bears a second look I'm thinking.

Rick Perry’s Pretty Awesome Tenure as Governor
DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “Rick Perry’s failed tenure as governor of Texas tells us everything we need to know about why he should never and won’t ever be president of the United States.”
“Failed tenure as governor of Texas”?

I’m about to tell you something I don’t think I’ve ever said before, and I don’t know if I ever will again. “Matt Yglesias wrote a good piece on this at Vox.” No, really. Maybe he was hacked, or maybe he was hit on the head or something. But the whole piece is spectacularly fair -- giving Perry a lot of credit for what went right in Texas during his tenure, but also pointing out where broader economic, political, or cultural trends helped the state:

I was working for ThinkProgress at the time Perry kicked off his campaign, so I got to see the kind of “Texas Miracle” debunkings that liberals were working on before Perry’s campaign imploded. It mostly consisted of very bright people coming up with not-so-persuasive arguments.

It was all about oil: Factually, this just doesn’t hold up very well. Oil extraction is a big business in Texas, but the state is far too large for a single industry to power its entire economy.

Yeah, but the jobs are low-paid: There are a lot of low-wage workers in Texas. But the people who have those jobs evidently think they’re better than no job at all. And Rick Perry’s Texas generated a lot of jobs.

It’s really just population growth: This is true. Texas’s unemployment rate did get pretty high during the recession. Job growth was so robust because the state’s labor force was growing so rapidly. But this is really a point in Perry’s favor. People were voting with their feet — in droves — to move to Texas.

It’s just warm weather: Again, it is true that there is a marked tendency for warmer states to grow faster than colder ones. Scott Walker can’t change the fact that Wisconsin is just a little cold and remote. But California has better weather than Texas, and its population and workforce aren’t growing nearly as fast.

Obviously, you can’t lay the credit (or blame) for a state’s economic success or failure at the shoes of a single person. But Perry is a leading member of a larger Texas conservative movement that has been politically dominant in the state for a long time and has clearly shaped the situation in important ways. Due to Perry’s long tenure in office, Texas public policy very much reflects his values — a light regulatory touch, low taxes, and spending that’s focused on infrastructure rather than social assistance. And it’s more or less achieved what it’s supposed to achieve: rapid job growth.

Oh, by the way:

Texas continues to outpace the national average in high school graduation rates according to annually released federal data, state education officials announced Friday.
Almost nine out of 10 — 88 percent — of students in the Class of 2013 earned their diplomas on time, compared with a national average of 81 percent. Iowa was the only other state that posted a higher rate.
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: The general interest vs. the special interests on: June 04, 2015, 02:24:06 PM
"But the mild voice of reason, pleading the cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain." —James Madison, Federalist No. 42, 1788
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NSA vs. overseas hackers on: June 04, 2015, 02:22:36 PM
second post

N.S.A. Secretly Widens Cross-Border Internet Spying to Find Hackers

Without public notice or debate, the Obama administration has expanded the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international Internet traffic to search for evidence of malicious computer hacking, according to classified N.S.A. documents.

In mid-2012, Justice Department lawyers wrote two secret memos permitting the spy agency to begin hunting on Internet cables, without a warrant and on American soil, for data linked to computer intrusions originating abroad — including traffic that flows to suspicious Internet addresses or contains malware, the documents show.


223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Pentagon and Cyber Defense on: June 04, 2015, 02:20:45 PM

    Though the U.S. Department of Defense leads in understanding and exploiting cyberspace vulnerabilities abroad, it will struggle to defend the same vulnerabilities domestically without assistance from other agencies and the private sector.
    The Pentagon will continue to lack the visibility and organizational structure to defend the range of networks upon which it relies.
    Any efforts to expand U.S. law enforcement or military jurisdiction or authority over the Internet's infrastructure likely would face significant domestic opposition.
    The Defense Department has accepted that it must share the domain of cyber defense and thus will continue to work as a partner in defending U.S. economic interests that reside in cyberspace.

The U.S. Department of Defense Cyber Strategy, a report released April 23, highlights the government's efforts thus far in realizing its role in cyberspace since the publication of its first formal strategy in 2011. The United States already has clearly demonstrated its technological edge in conducting espionage and sabotage online, as with the Stuxnet attack against Iranian centrifuges in 2008. However, the U.S. military's capabilities in the potential war-fighting domain of cyberspace do not equal its land, sea and air dominance. The Pentagon's cyber strategy focuses on this reality as much as it does on further incorporating cyberspace capabilities into its military structure. While the Department of Defense recognizes cyberspace as an operational domain, it also recognizes that it must share this domain to safeguard U.S. interests.
U.S. Cyber Capabilities

The U.S. government, with the Department of Defense leading the way principally through the National Security Agency, began developing and employing offensive cyber capabilities — acts of espionage and industrial sabotage — years before formally defining cyberspace as an operational domain. The scope of past U.S. intelligence operations in cyberspace was revealed by Edward Snowden's leaks and the demonstrable efforts to sabotage Iran's nuclear program. However, the Pentagon's capabilities do not safeguard its own information technology infrastructure and have generally been ineffective in defending U.S. interests in cyberspace.

To discourage cyber attacks, the U.S. government has used the threat of economic sanctions, criminal prosecution of foreign state officials, and the prospect of physical military action stemming from its 2011 declaration that cyber attacks constitute an act of war. Yet, aside from the prospect of physical military action or economic sanctions, the U.S. government still lacks any effective deterrence to cyber attacks. These breaches continually cause financial losses for the U.S. private sector, and state and non-state actors continue targeting government institutions. To defend in cyberspace (rather than engaging strictly in espionage), the military must play an auxiliary role in a domain it must share with other government organizations and the private sector.

The private sector owns and operates roughly 90 percent of the physical infrastructure that constitutes the abstract world of cyberspace. Though the Pentagon has proven resourceful in researching and exploiting new vulnerabilities in cyberspace, it lacks the authority to ensure that U.S. interests are protected against such exploits. In other words, the United States' ability to conduct espionage and sabotage in cyberspace depends on the same types of vulnerabilities that threaten its own economic interests. To rectify this, the Pentagon's top priorities in developing its cyberspace strategy focus on defense — namely partnering with domestic government agencies and the private sector to ensure that U.S. interests are safeguarded from cyber attacks by foreign state and non-state actors.

Not all countries that employ offensive capabilities and espionage in cyber space — such as China, Russia, Iran or North Korea — face the same dynamics in defending their own information technology infrastructure. The Chinese government, for instance, maintains strict control over the network infrastructure and the information passing through it within its borders. This allows for much greater control over its security of the network technology, though it stems from China's particular concern for social control.
The Pentagon's Limitations

Protecting U.S. economic interests abroad has been one of the U.S. military's tasks since its inception. However, defending commercial activity that takes place on the Internet involves a different skill set and political constraints than, say, safeguarding international sea lanes. Both the U.S. military and law enforcement face a complex landscape in cyberspace, where their jurisdictions are complicated by the global nature of the Internet's infrastructure and the U.S. distinction between private and public ownership. This situation is not likely to change much, because any efforts to expand law enforcement or military jurisdiction or authority likely would face significant opposition in the United States.

This lack of authority over infrastructure is just one barrier for the military in dominating cyberspace. Though the Internet's inception was rooted in defense research and development, the increasing importance of the Internet to global commerce and the abstract landscape of cyberspace are shaped by both the private sector and popular use. In 2000, 400 million people were using the Internet; that number will grow to some 3.2 billion by the end of 2015. The very nature of the Internet — once a collection of a few networked computer terminals — has rapidly evolved to encompass nearly every facet of life through an increasing number of different devices that communicate over the global network as part of the Internet of Things. New technologies, and thus new vulnerabilities, are constantly emerging in cyberspace — innovations around which the Department of Defense must continually adapt.

By partnering with the private sector, the Department of Defense can help maintain stronger situational awareness of the ever-changing landscape. The Pentagon may lack the authority to enforce security compliance in the private sector, but it is in an advantageous position, particularly given the power of the intelligence community, to advise the private sector about the current technical vulnerabilities that permit cyber attacks. This kind of cooperation requires the will of individual actors in the private sector and large corporations that also often rely on overseas infrastructure, which can complicate partnerships. However, the Pentagon's own communications rely on numerous networks, many of which can fall victim to malware propagated on the Internet. In its latest cyber strategy report, the Department of Defense admits it lacks the "visibility and organizational structure" to defend such networks, furthering the need for partnerships in defending its cyberspace interests. The dynamics behind this need are not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
The Challenging Nature of Cyber Attacks

In cyberspace, attacks and espionage are conducted independent of geographic range, and expenses are often negligent compared to physical spying or acts of aggression. For example, a distributed denial of service attack against a U.S. company relying on its Internet presence for business can be organized by a small group of individuals at little expense, particularly compared to the resources necessary to even investigate the authorship of such an attack. The impact of cyber attacks is far greater on developed countries with greater reliance on the Internet — a fact that gives state actors in the developing world and non-state actors a significant advantage. On Dec. 22, 2014, for example, an unidentified actor isolated North Korea from the global network via the country's weak link in China, possibly in retaliation for the 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the U.S. government publicly attributed to North Korea. Whether or not the incident was tied to the Sony attack, the effect of isolating North Korea — which only retains around 1,000 unique Internet Protocol addresses — was minimal.

The asymmetric nature of threats in cyberspace, including potential attacks by non-state actors, makes employing an effective deterrence more challenging for the Department of Defense. Economic sanctions and military responses are less useful against common threats from lone hackers, organized crime and activists. Even distinguishing attribution of a specific attack between state and non-state actors can be a daunting task. For example, though the U.S. government appears confident in blaming North Korea for the Sony hack, many cyber security analysts still question the validity of the accusations.

There is no doubt that the Pentagon has been aggressively seeking ways to improve its capabilities in cyberspace. Its latest cyber strategy report highlights how the Department of Defense wants to further integrate its growing capabilities within its traditional combatant command structure. As the U.S. military continues to embrace cyberspace as a domain, it will find that its traditional role in other operational areas does not necessarily translate to this new and increasingly critical territory. Thus, the military will share cyberspace defense duties with other government agencies and the private sector in an effort to protect U.S. economic interests and the military's own networks.
224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rumor about Kerry's accident on: June 04, 2015, 01:16:44 PM
225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Peshmerga begs for arms from Obama; situation desperate on: June 04, 2015, 12:28:17 PM
Kurdish Peshmerga Say They Need Weapons After ISIS Seizes Iraqi Arsenal
Forces worry they cannot hold defensive lines
Lt. Jamal Derwish, pointing in center, commands the last outpost of Kurdish Peshmerga forces before Islamic-State controlled territory in Dabbis, Kirkuk province in Iraq. ENLARGE
Lt. Jamal Derwish, pointing in center, commands the last outpost of Kurdish Peshmerga forces before Islamic-State controlled territory in Dabbis, Kirkuk province in Iraq. Photo: Yaroslav Trofimov/The Wall Street Journal
Yaroslav Trofimov
June 4, 2015 7:06 a.m. ET

DABBIS, Iraq—Just before Islamic State territory begins, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have built a dirt wall across the road. But they don’t have much hope it would stop the militants’ favorite way of breaking front lines—armored trucks filled with explosives and driven by suicide bombers.

Lt. Jamal Derwish, the outpost’s commander, said his men already spotted three such armored vehicles in the area since Islamic State, or ISIS, overran the city of Ramadi last month and seized yet another arsenal of modern U.S.-made heavy weapons from the Iraqi army. Islamic State fighters, he said, have also filled trenches with oil to burn—something that would create a smokescreen to protect them from U.S. airstrikes.
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“We’re facing a very serious threat. Without necessary weapons, this basic defensive line won’t be enough,” Lt. Derwish said shortly after his outpost came under Islamic State’s mortar fire. He held up an old rocket-propelled grenade, something that wouldn’t easily stop a massive armored truck barreling down the road.

“Right now, the only weapons we really have is this and the high morale of our Peshmerga,” he said.

The 160,000 Peshmerga—the troops of the autonomous Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq—may well be the most dedicated and combat-worthy units confronting Islamic State in Iraq. In a paradox of this conflict, they are also the least armed and equipped when compared with the Iraqi army, the Iranian-backed Shiite militias or, crucially, Islamic State itself. Peshmerga ammunition stocks are running low and whatever heavy weapons they have are mostly of Saddam Hussein-era vintage, commanders say.

While the Peshmerga also buckled under Islamic State’s rapid offensive last summer, they have since reconquered most lost territory and now are focused on holding the line. One of the most critical front lines is here near the Islamic State stronghold of Hawija, in the barren hill country punctuated by the burning gas wells of Kirkuk province. The area is home to a sizable chunk of the country’s oil wealth.

“If ISIS combines its forces and pushes into one area with multiple vehicles, they will break through—and then the whole line breaks,” warned Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a Kurdistan-based analyst for the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington think tank.

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated central government—fearing that one day Kurdistan will seek independence from Baghdad—has long tried to limit arms transfers to the Kurdish Regional Government, which, not being a state, can’t legally buy weapons on its own. Because of budget disputes with Baghdad, which is supposed to share 17% of the entire country’s oil income with the Kurdish government, the Peshmerga also haven’t received their salaries for two months.

“Our enemy is very well-armed. The better weapons we get, the fewer sacrifices in lives we will have to make to resist it,” the Kurdish minister for Peshmerga affairs, Mustafa Sayid Qadir, said in an interview. “They target us with weapons that were abandoned in Ramadi. Wouldn’t it have been better if the Iraqi army had given them to us instead of giving them to ISIS?”

While Baghdad denied Kurdish requests for weapons in the past, the country’s current government led by Haider al-Abadi has authorized some U.S. shipments to the Peshmerga. They include 40 MRAP armored vehicles and some 1,000 AT-4 antitank systems, according to the Pentagon.

“Our policy remains that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the central sovereign government of Iraq,” said Pentagon spokeswoman U.S. Navy Cmd. Elissa Smith.

The most useful weapons supplied to the Peshmerga have come not from the U.S. but from allies such as Germany and France, Kurdish officials say. On top of their wish list: the German-supplied Milan guided antitank missiles with an effective range of 2,000 meters—a tool of choice against the suicide truck bombs often fashioned by Islamic State from American-made armored Humvees and MRAPs.

By contrast, the U.S.-supplied AT-4 has an effective range of only 300 meters. By the time it hits a large truck bomb, with its wide radius of destruction, it’s often too late, said Mr. Qadir.

“You are already within the range of the explosion,” he said.

Frontline commanders such as Lt. Derwish say they crave the Milans. However, there are only two such missile systems for 11 Peshmerga brigades along the 44-kilometer stretch of front line near Kirkuk. They are moved between outposts based on intelligence about imminent attacks, said the sector’s commander, Kemal Kirkuki, a former speaker of the Kurdistan regional parliament.

“Out of the two, one doesn’t even have night vision—which is problem considering that ISIS mostly attacks at night,” Mr. Kirkuki added.

Things aren’t better elsewhere. While exact numbers haven't been released, the U.S. military says coalition partners have supplied dozens of Milan launchers to the Peshmerga for a front line with Islamic State that stretches more than 1,000 kilometers .

“ISIS has very advanced weapons that it received from Iraqi army stores. If we do not receive help from our international partners, we may not be able to confront it,” said Lt. Col. Keifi Majid Abdulrahman, operations chief for the 108th Peshmerga brigade at the Hawija front line.

“ISIS is like a virus. It’s better to eliminate it today than let it grow tomorrow. We’d like to see our coalition partners pull up their sleeves and get serious.”

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: June 04, 2015, 12:23:09 PM
The Somali gangs are seeking to enter the drug biz?
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America on: June 04, 2015, 12:22:28 PM
I'm not real enthused about China as a role model , , ,

Meanwhile, here's this:
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iranians have new demands on: June 04, 2015, 11:55:21 AM
229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: EPA says fracking is/can be safe on: June 04, 2015, 11:52:35 AM
 A four-year study from the EPA—the federal government’s most comprehensive examination of the issue of fracking and drinking water—found that fracking can be carried out safely and doesn’t need to pose a threat to water. Photo: Andrew Cullen/Reuters
Russell Gold And
Amy Harder
June 4, 2015 12:04 p.m. ET

A decade into an energy boom led by hydraulic fracturing, the Environmental Protection Agency has concluded there is no evidence the practice has had a “widespread, systemic impact on drinking water.”

The report is the federal government’s most comprehensive examination of the issue of fracking and drinking water, and it bolsters the position staked out by the energy industry and its supporters: that fracking can be carried out safely and doesn’t need to pose a threat to water.

While there have been some cases involving spills and leaking wells, the spread of fracking didn’t cause extensive damage to groundwater resources, the EPA found. The four-year study noted that there were certain “potential vulnerabilities” to water supplies that needed to be addressed, including ensuring wells are well-built and wastewater is disposed of properly.

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“EPA’s draft study will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources,” said Thomas Burke, deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s office of research and development.

While the report doesn’t recommend any specific action, it could reinvigorate a debate over the role of fracking in the nation’s energy landscape at a time when environmentalists have increasingly called to ban the practice outright, a step that two states with gas resources—New York and Maryland—have recently taken.

Fracking remains controversial in some communities as critics of the practice have recently moved to highlight other concerns, including air emissions, community health impacts and the proliferation of earthquakes that some studies have tied to injecting fracking wastewater.

Fracking involves shooting millions of gallons of water, laced with chemicals, into dense rock formations to create fractures and allow oil and natural gas to flow out.

Several years ago, as fracking spread across the U.S., there were widespread fears that fracking would lead to contaminated drinking water. Many of these fears were stoked by the 2010 documentary “Gasland.” One of the most notable scenes showed a landowner lighting his faucet on fire.

In Congress recently, the political debate over fracking has subsided. Almost all Republicans endorse fracking, and many Democratic lawmakers have increasingly been supportive as well, in large part because it has brought economic growth to their districts.

The growing skepticism of fracking by the environmental movement has done little to change Democrats’ support for the practice. The report from the EPA, whose findings echo the views of many Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the Obama administration, will reinforce much of the conventional wisdom on Capitol Hill about the drilling practice.

Write to Russell Gold at and Amy Harder at
230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The origins of transgender surgery on: June 04, 2015, 11:29:10 AM
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: June 03, 2015, 06:13:18 PM
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Depression that cured itself on: June 03, 2015, 03:55:07 PM
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bush now outpolls Obama on: June 03, 2015, 03:06:38 PM
234  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: June 03, 2015, 12:06:52 PM
PRD candidate for Congress killed in Valle de Chalco, Mexico Security | Mexico | 02-Jun-2015
The Prosecutor’s Office of Mexico State (Edomex) confirmed that PRD Congressional candidate Miguel Angel Luna Munguia was killed by a group of at least three armed individuals on 2 June 2015 inside his campaign headquarters in colonia Xico, Valle de Chalco. Luna received five shots to the head and chest and while he was preparing for the campaign closure with other PRD candidates. Party leaders stated this was a direct attack against Luna, since just one supporter, Tonatiuh Gutierrez, was injured out of the additional five people present during the attack.

Striking teachers take over INE offices in Oaxaca and burn ballot papers Security | Mexico | 01-Jun-2015
On 1 June 2015 hundreds of members of Section 22 of the SNTE (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, National Union of Education Workers) burned down an INE (Instituto Nacional Electoral, National Electoral Institute) distribution center located in Juchitan, Oaxaca. The teachers set paper and boxes and then the INE offices on fire as part of a boycott organized by the Union against the upcoming elections on 7 June. Similar events took place at the INE’s District office elsewhere in Oaxaca, in Santo Domingo Tehuantepec. The teachers were also reported to be holding up fifteen delivery trucks from private companies and blocking access to Pemex’s plant near the municipality of Santa Maria El Tule. The teachers went strike on 1 June 2015, keeping over 1.5 million students in Oaxaca out of school.

Suspected financial operator from Sinaloa cartel captured in Zapopan Security | Mexico | 01-Jun-2015
A spokesperson for Mexico’s Federal Police stated on 1 June 2015 that the agency captured Juan Antonio Díaz Hurtado, suspected financial operator for the Sinaloa cartel. Police apprehended Díaz Hurtado in colonia Prados de Guadalupe, Zapopan, Jalisco in a non-violent operation. He is wanted for extradition to the United States on charges of money laundering related to drug trafficking and has bank accounts in his or his companies’ names in Chicago, New York and Minneapolis.
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Primary Truths, Fed. 31, 1788: Jeffferson- the manners and the spirits on: June 03, 2015, 12:01:24 PM
“The mobs of the great cities add just so much to the support of pure government as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manners and spirit of a people, which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.” —Thomas Jefferson (1787)

"In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasoning must depend." —Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, 1788
236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 21 Revelations on: June 03, 2015, 11:54:06 AM

Below we chronicle just 21 of the myriad Clinton Cash-related revelations that have emerged since the book’s publication—all of which have been confirmed and verified as accurate by national media organizations.

    Huffington Post: Clintons Bagged at Least $3.4 Million for 18 Speeches Funded by Keystone Pipeline Banks

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and TD Bank—two of the Keystone XL pipeline’s largest investors—fully or partially bankrolled eight Hillary Clinton speeches that “put more than $1.6 million in the Democratic candidate’s pocket,” reports the Huffington Post.

Moreover, according to Clinton Cash, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Sec. of State, Bill Clinton delivered 10 speeches from Nov. 2008 to mid-2011 totaling $1.8 million paid for by TD Bank, which held a $1.6 billion investment in the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Clintons’ speaking fees windfall, which has infuriated environmental groups, have yet to be addressed by Hillary Clinton.

    New York Times: Clinton Foundation Shook Down a Tiny Tsunami Relief Nonprofit for a $500,000 Speaking Fee

Bill Clinton refused to give a speech for a tiny nonprofit seeking to raise money for tsunami victims until the group agreed to pay a $500,000 speaking fee to the Clinton Foundation. The Times reported that the Clinton Foundation “sent the charity an invoice,” which “amounted to almost a quarter of the evening’s net proceeds—enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia.”

    New York Magazine: Clinton Foundation “Strong-Armed” Charity Watchdog Group

When “the Clinton Foundation wound up on a ‘watch list’ maintained by the Charity Navigator, dubbed the ‘most prominent’ nonprofit watchdog,” reported New York Magazine writer Gabriel Sherman, “the Foundation attempted to strong-arm them by calling a Navigator board member.”

    International Business Times: Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. Gave Clinton Foundation Donors Weapons Deals

“Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data,” reports IBT. “That figure—derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012)—represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.”

Salon, MotherJones, HuffingtonPost, Slate, and several other liberal publications reported on IBT’s findings.

    Washington Post: Clintons Hid 1,100 Foreign Donor Names in Violation of Ethics Agreement with Obama Admin.

Clinton Cash revealed five hidden foreign donations. On the heels of the book’s publication, the Washington Post uncovered another 1,100 foreign donor names hidden in the Canada-based Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership—a Clinton Foundation initiative Bill Clinton erected with controversial billionaire mining executive Frank Giustra.

“A charity affiliated with the Clinton Foundation failed to reveal the identities of its 1,100 donors, creating a broad exception to the foundation’s promise to disclose funding sources as part of an ethics agreement with the Obama administration,” reports the Washington Post. “The number of undisclosed contributors to the charity, the Canada-based Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, signals a larger zone of secrecy around foundation donors than was previously known.”

In a follow-up story, the Post reports that only 21 of Frank Giustra and Bill Clinton’s secret 1,100 foreign donors have subsequently been revealed. If and when the other 1,079 hidden donors names will be revealed is presently unclear—and will be the subject of forthcoming investigative reports by Breitbart News.

    Vox: At Least 181 Clinton Foundation Donors Lobbied Hillary’s State Dept.

“Public records alone reveal a nearly limitless supply of cozy relationships between the Clintons and companies with interests before the government,” reports Vox. “There’s a household name at the nexus of the foundation and the State Department for every letter of the alphabet but “X” (often more than one): Anheuser-Busch, Boeing, Chevron, (John) Deere, Eli Lilly, FedEx, Goldman Sachs, HBO, Intel, JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, Monsanto, NBC Universal, Oracle, Procter & Gamble, Qualcomm, Rotary International, Siemens, Target, Unilever, Verizon, Walmart, Yahoo, and Ze-gen.”

    BuzzFeed: Two of Hillary Clinton’s Top Donors Were Major Felons

When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008, two of her biggest fundraisers were conducting massive Ponzi schemes. One was Hsu, who posed as a garment tycoon, and is now serving a 24-year sentence in federal prison in Milan, Michigan. The other, Hassan Nemazee, is serving a 12-year sentence in Otisville, New York, for bank fraud. He used fake documents and nonexistent loans to trick bankers into extending him more credit,” reports Ben Smith of BuzFeed. “Those two convictions cast light on a central perplexity of the 2016 presidential cycle, and its ‘Clinton Cash‘ phase: Why are shady people with murky interests always hanging around political superstars, and particularly Bill and Hillary Clinton?”

    Daily Beast: Clintons’ Charity Scored Millions from Qatar and Donations from Corrupt FIFA Soccer Organization

“The Clinton global charity has received between $50,000 and $100,000 from soccer’s governing body and has partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association on several occasions, according to donor listings on the foundation’s website,” reports The Daily Beast. “Qatar 2022 committee gave the foundation between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014 and the State of Qatar gave between $1 million and $5 million in previous, unspecified years.”

    Associated Press: The Clintons’ Have a Secret “Pass-Through” Company—WJC, LLC

“The newly released financial files on Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s growing fortune omit a company with no apparent employees or assets that the former president has legally used to provide consulting and other services, but which demonstrates the complexity of the family’s finances,” reported the AP. “The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide private details of the former president’s finances on the record, said the entity was a ‘pass-through’ company designed to channel payments to the former president.”

Hillary Clinton has yet to release the names and amounts of the payments that flowed through the hidden WJC, LLC, company.

    New York Times: Hillary Funneled $10K Monthly Payments to Sidney Blumenthal Through Clinton Foundation

“An examination by The Times suggests that Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement was more wide-ranging and more complicated than previously known, embodying the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years,” reports the Times. “While advising Mrs. Clinton on Libya, Mr. Blumenthal, who had been barred from a State Department job by aides to President Obama, was also employed by her family’s philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation…and worked on and off as a paid consultant to Media Matters and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.”

    New Yorker: Bill Clinton Scored a $500,000 Speech in Moscow Paid for by a Kremlin-backed Bank

The New Yorker confirms Clinton Cash’s reporting that Bill Clinton bagged $500,000 for a Moscow speech paid for by “a Russian investment bank that had ties to the Kremlin.”

“Why was Bill Clinton taking any money from a bank linked to the Kremlin while his wife was Secretary of State?” asks the New Yorker. To date, Hillary Clinton nor her campaign have answered that question.

    Washington Post: Hillary Clinton’s Brother Sits on the Board of a Mining Co. that Received a Coveted Haitian “Gold Exploitation Permit” that Has Only Twice Been Awarded in 50 Years. Rodham Met the Mining Executive in Charge of the Company at a Clinton Foundation Event.

“In interviews with The Washington Post, both Rodham and the chief executive of Delaware-based VCS Mining said they were introduced at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative—an offshoot of the Clinton Foundation that critics have long alleged invites a blurring of its charitable mission with the business interests of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their corporate donors.”

“Asked whether he attends CGI meetings to explore personal business opportunities, Rodham responded, ‘No, I go to see old friends. But you never know what can happen.’”

    New York Times: Court Proceedings Reveal Hillary’s Brother Claimed Admits Clinton Foundation and the Clintons Are Key to His Haiti Connections

“I deal through the Clinton Foundation,” Tony Rodham said according to a transcript of his testimony obtained by The Times. “That gets me in touch with the Haitian officials. I hound my brother-in-law [Bill Clinton], because it’s his fund that we’re going to get our money from. And he can’t do it until the Haitian government does it.”

    Wall Street Journal: Clinton Foundation Violated Memorandum of Understanding with the Obama Admin. By Keeping Secret a Foreign Donation of Two Million Shares of Stock from a Foreign Executive with Business Before Hillary’s State Dept.

Clinton Cash revealed that Canadian mining tycoon Stephen Dattels scored an “open pit mining” concession at the Phulbari Mines in Bangladesh where his Polo Resources had investments. The coveted perk came just two months after Polo Resources gave the Clinton Foundation 2,000,000 shares of stock—a donation the Clinton Foundation kept hidden.

    New York Times: Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Claims She Had No Idea Her State Dept. Was Considering Approving the Transfer of 20% of U.S. Uranium to the Russian Govt.—Even as the Clinton Foundation Bagged $145 Million in Donations from Investors in the Deal

In a 4,000-word front-page New York Times investigation, the Times confirmed in granular detail Clinton Cash’s reporting that Hillary’s State Dept. was one of nine agencies approving the sale of Uranium One to the Russian government. “The sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States,” reports the Times.

The Times then published a detailed table and infographic cataloging the $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation made by uranium executives involved in the Russian transfer of 20% of all U.S. uranium.

    Bloomberg: A For-Profit University Put Bill Clinton on Its Payroll and Scored a Jump in Funding from Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. When Clinton Cash Revealed the Scheme, Bill Clinton Quickly Resigned.

Even as Hillary Clinton and Democrats continue to blast for-profit colleges and universities, Hillary Clinton’s campaign continues to stonewall questions about how much Bill Clinton was paid by Laureate International Universities, one of the largest for-profit education companies in the world—and an organization that has underwritten Clinton Foundation events. As soon as Clinton Cash revealed Bill Clinton spent years on Laureate’s payroll, the former president quickly resigned.

According to an analysis by Bloomberg: “in 2009, the year before Bill Clinton joined Laureate, the nonprofit received 11 grants worth $9 million from the State Department or the affiliated USAID. In 2010, the group received 14 grants worth $15.1 million. In 2011, 13 grants added up to $14.6 million. The following year, those numbers jumped: IYF received 21 grants worth $25.5 million, including a direct grant from the State Department.”

Hillary Clinton has refused to answer questions about the Clintons’ income from the for-profit education company.

    New York Times: The Head of the Russian Govt’s Uranium Company Ian Telfer Made Secret Donations Totaling $2.35 Million to the Clinton Foundation—as Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. Approved the Transfer of 20% of All U.S. Uranium to the Russians

Ian Telfer, the former head of the Russian-owned uranium company, Uranium One, funneled $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation—donations that were never revealed until Clinton Cash reported them and the New York Times confirmed them.

Hillary Clinton has yet to answer a single question about Uranium One.

    Washington Post: Bill and Hillary Clinton Have Made at Least $26 Million in Speaking Fees from Entities Who Are Top Clinton Foundation Donors

According to the Post’s independent analysis, “Bill Clinton was paid more than $100 million for speeches between 2001 and 2013, according to federal financial disclosure forms filed by Hillary Clinton during her years as a senator and as secretary of state.”

The Post added: “Bill Clinton was paid at least $26 million in speaking fees by companies and organizations that are also major donors to the foundation he created after leaving the White House, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records and foundation date.”

    Washington Free Beacon: Former Clinton Campaign Operative-Turned-ABC News Host George Stephanopoulos Failed to Disclose His $75,000 Donation and Deep Involvement in the Clinton Foundation Before Launching an Attack Interview Against Clinton Cash Author

Clinton political operative-turned-ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos infamously hid his $75,000 Clinton Foundation donation from ABC News viewers before launching a partisan attack “interview” with Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer.

Roundly condemned by numerous journalists, Stephanopoulos apologized and received zero punishment from ABC News. Hillary Clinton’s campaign then used footage from the Stephanopoulos’ attack “interview” with Schweizer in its political campaign videos.

“It was outrageous,” said former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson.

Hillary Clinton has yet to answer whether her  campaign coordinated with Clinton Foundation donor George Stephanopoulos.

    CNBC: Clinton Foundation Mega Donor Frank Holmes Claimed He Sold Uranium One Before Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. Approved the Russian Transfer—Despite His Company’s Own SEC Filings Proving Otherwise

In a highly embarrassing CNBC grilling, Clinton mega donor and uranium executive Frank Holmes claimed he sold his Uranium One stock well before Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. greenlit the transfer of 20% of all U.S. uranium to the Russian government in 2010.

However, according to his company’s, U.S. Global Investors, own 2011 SEC filing, Holmes’ company did, in fact, still hold Uranium One stock, a point he later conceded.

    Politico: Hillary’s Foundation Accepted $1 Million from Human Rights Violator Morocco for a Lavish Event

“The event is being funded largely by a contribution of at least $1 million from OCP, a phosphate exporter owned by Morocco’s constitutional monarchy, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the event,” reports Politico. “But in 2011, Clinton’s State Department had accused the Moroccan government of ‘arbitrary arrests and corruption in all branches of government.’”

ABC News similarly confirmed the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of the unseemly funds.
237  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Maybe the butler did not do it , , , on: June 03, 2015, 12:43:57 AM

Kejal Vyas
June 2, 2015 10:21 p.m. ET

Argentine officials said they were probing whether someone logged onto the computer of prosecutor Alberto Nisman hours after his mysterious death in his apartment but before his mother discovered his body.

The new development in a case that has roiled Argentina since Mr. Nisman’s death in January is being investigated by Viviana Fein, the prosecutor who is trying to determine if the 51-year-old killed himself or was the victim of foul play. Mr. Nisman’s Samsung laptop logged the input of up to three flash drives just after 8 p.m., Ms. Fein told Argentine media on Monday, some hours after a .22-caliber Bersa was held to his head and discharged.

Investigators are looking into whether the computer—which contained data from his investigation of Iran’s suspected role in a 1994 terror bombing in Argentina—was accessed locally or remotely and whether its time registry could have been changed.

Mr. Nisman died just hours before he was set to present evidence he said would link President Cristina Kirchner to a conspiracy to cover up Tehran’s alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in the capital, Buenos Aires.

“Logically, it will have to be a very exhaustive study because many times you can technically manipulate the time registry,” Ms. Fein told a local radio station.

Her comments, the latest twist in a case that has engrossed Argentina, were splayed across the front pages of newspapers on Tuesday and dominated talk radio shows after La Nación newspaper reported the development over the weekend, leading to Ms. Fein’s comments.

The news of her new line of inquiry comes as critics have been accusing authorities of sullying evidence during the evidence gathering process in Mr. Nisman’s residence in an affluent section of Buenos Aires.

Mr. Nisman’s death on Jan. 18, when he was found on the floor of his bathroom after a bullet was fired into his head, has plunged Argentina into months of speculation.

The president has denied Mr. Nisman’s accusations about an Iran connection, and her associates have said he committed suicide. Her office didn’t return phone calls and emails seeking comment on Tuesday.

Discord over the investigation has centered on the time and circumstances of Mr. Nisman’s death.

Officials first suggested that he committed suicide, but later indicated that he may have been assassinated, without offering conclusive proof of either scenario. Ms. Fein’s office says evidence indicates Mr. Nisman likely died around noon on Jan. 18. But a rival investigation spearheaded by Mr. Nisman’s former longtime partner, Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, says he may have died on the previous night. Ms. Salgado couldn’t be reached for comment.

In a related development, an Argentine television program called “Journalism for All” aired on Sunday part of a four-hour video that showed police investigators appearing to mishandle evidence at the scene. Mr. Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel, is seen in the video as several officers gather fingerprints and examine documents without using gloves in the early hours of Jan. 19. At one point, someone uses toilet paper to wipe blood from the handgun found with Mr. Nisman’s body, smearing blood on the adjacent bidet while removing bullets from the firearm.

Ms. Fein, who also appears in the video,, who couldn’t be reached for further comment, said there was no mishandling.

“The scene was not contaminated. It was duly preserved,” she told Argentine media, adding that only a part of the blood-smeared gun was cleaned so its serial number could be read.

Ms. Fein’s comments are unlikely to quash speculation in Argentina, where polls have shown that most citizens believe Mr. Nisman was murdered.

A new book by Mr. Nisman’s cousin, Andrea Garfunkel, launched fresh accusations that the late prosecutor was killed because of his investigation into the 1994 bombing. Ms. Garfunkel highlights irregularities regarding the findings at Mr. Nisman’s home. She notes the unused pajamas found near his bed, which she says suggests he may have died the night before investigators found him.

— Alberto Messer in Buenos Aires contributed to this article.
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sweden paid Bill foundation $26M while lobbying Sec-St. Hillary on: June 02, 2015, 08:31:20 PM
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Egyptian history professor surprises! on: June 02, 2015, 08:09:42 PM
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Frozen stockpiles grow 20% , , , on: June 02, 2015, 06:29:57 PM

241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: California's tax revenue gusher on: June 02, 2015, 02:09:59 PM
California Party Time
Sacramento spends its tax revenue gusher like there’s no tomorrow.
California Gov. Jerry Brown ENLARGE
California Gov. Jerry Brown Photo: Associated Press
May 31, 2015 5:57 p.m. ET

These are hard times for the blue-state governing model of high taxes and public unions—see Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland. But our friends on the left ignore these states and tout California as their real model, as Sacramento celebrates record tax revenue. So it’s worth noting that the Golden State may be repeating the fiscal mistakes it made before its last economic bust.

There’s no doubt the state government is on a high, with Governor Jerry Brown forecasting $6.7 billion in additional revenue beyond his January projections due to growth in capital gains and incomes among high earners. Over four years general fund revenues have risen by 40% to $117.3 billion as income-tax collections surged 55%.

This follows what has turned out to be one of the most fortuitously timed tax increases in history. Mr. Brown’s 2012 ballot measure retroactively raised taxes on individuals earning more than $250,000 and increased the top rate to 13.3% from 10.3% for those making more than $1 million. The measure passed amid the Internet boom and stock market rise.

No one wants to mention, however, that the tax hike doubled down on the state’s top-heavy tax structure that produces huge revenue swings. The top 1% of taxpayers—those earning more than $525,000—paid over 50% of all California income taxes in 2012 while the bottom four quintiles earning less than $90,000 paid a mere 10%. The Golden State has lost middle-income jobs in manufacturing to other lower-taxing Western states, but it has assets like Silicon Valley that other blue states don’t.

The resulting revenue boom has politicians partying like it’s 1999, the height of the dot-com bubble. The boom has been especially sweet for teachers unions because under the state constitution schools are entitled to most of the haul. Over the past four years state spending on K-12 and community colleges has grown by 45% to $68 billion this year.

But now other liberal interest groups want to join the party. So Mr. Brown is proposing to extend Medicaid to illegal immigrants granted permanent residency by President Obama. California’s Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare has already added four million beneficiaries at a cost of $17 billion. National taxpayers are picking up $15.5 billion of the tab for now, but California’s share will grow after 2016.

Mr. Brown also wants to create another entitlement by inaugurating a state version of the earned-income tax credit for two million low-income Californians. That comes on top of next year’s increase in the minimum wage to $10 an hour, and $15 an hour by 2020 in Los Angeles.

Yet despite the government’s efforts to help the poor, California has the nation’s highest poverty rate at 23.4%. And nowhere in the U.S. save perhaps New York City is income inequality greater than San Francisco, which has been a hothouse for progressive policies such as a $15 minimum wage and mandated paid sick leave. All that income redistribution doesn’t seem to be the secret to equality.

Meantime, projected revenues from California’s cap-and-trade auctions have swelled by 150% in the last year to $2.2 billion. Mr. Brown wants to spend $400 million of that windfall on affordable housing; $350 million on low-carbon transportation (i.e., electric car subsidies that go mainly to the well off); $365 million on public transit and intercity rail; and $500 million on the L.A. to San Francisco bullet train that is already short of funding.

The danger is that this gusher of new spending will set up the state for another budget bust. Last November voters did approve a ballot referendum aimed at imposing some spending discipline, strengthening the porous rainy day fund. Under the new law’s formula, the state must spend $1.9 billion this year to pay down “debts and liabilities.”

But Mr. Brown has construed it broadly to include payments to schools and special funds that politicians had previously raided. He’d also create a new liability by proposing to seize $96 million from the rainy day fund to shore up University of California pensions. Yet Mr. Brown’s budget doesn’t even begin paying down the $191 billion unfunded liability for state worker and teacher retirement benefits.

At the end of 2015 the rainy day fund will have a meager $3.5 billion, and the Governor cautions that the “budget remains precariously balanced and faces the prospect of deficits in succeeding years.” Last year the state Legislative Analyst’s Office warned that a modest dip in income growth could trigger multibillion-dollar deficits due to built-in spending increases, particularly in education.

The paradox of Jerry Brown has always been that he’s smart enough to recognize the severity of the state’s fiscal problems, yet he can’t seem to restrain his prodigal legislature or even help himself. The revenue boom is making California’s economy and budget look better than they are. The reckoning will arrive when the next economic downturn does.
242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Somalis in America on: June 02, 2015, 01:57:42 PM
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't give up on the South China Sea on: June 02, 2015, 12:44:25 PM

and here is this in a similar vein from today's WSJ:

Stephen Peter Rosen
June 1, 2015 6:56 p.m. ET

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Saturday called for “an immediate and lasting halt” to China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea. In Singapore for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue with Asian nations, Mr. Carter voiced U.S. concerns about the “prospect of further militarization as well as the potential for these activities to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states.”

The Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia notwithstanding, tensions are clearly on the rise as Beijing becomes more assertive in the Asia-Pacific region. Less clear is what should be done about it. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for a “stable regional balance.” Meanwhile, the Chinese government expands the land around disputed islands and deploys ground forces to them, while prominent Chinese academics discuss the need to end the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.

How can a “stable regional balance” be achieved? China’s relative economic and military power will continue to grow. Asia is far from North America. Washington can stand up today for freedom of navigation and multilateral diplomacy, but some argue that geography and the steady shift in power toward China stacks the deck against the U.S. If China continues to build islands in disputed waters, what can the U.S. do?

The message, always there but seldom articulated, is that the U.S. should concede gracefully to the inevitable and make the best deal it can before it is even relatively weaker. This is a superficially appealing argument, but it is shortsighted and self-centered. It looks only at the U.S. But the question of what to do about a rising China cannot be answered by America alone.

China’s ascendance became apparent toward the end of the 1980s. What is forgotten is how unusually favorable to China the Asian environment was from 1990 until 2010. All of Beijing’s important enemies and rivals were neutralized during those 20 years. Soviet rule collapsed along with Russia’s sphere of influence in the region, eliminating what had been China’s main continental rival since the 18th century. Japan was constrained militarily and diplomatically by the consequences of its wars of aggression.

The U.S. became the ally of China during the Cold War and was actively supporting the growth of the Chinese economy and even of its military. When Washington started having second thoughts about this strategy at the turn of this century, they were soon subordinated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The rise of China was thus neither motivated nor hindered by foreign hostility. It was facilitated by the most benign Asian security environment that China had experienced for 200 years.

China’s rise also took place when its Asian economic rivals were stunted. The so-called Asian Tigers—Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan—grew rapidly but were small. Japan was crippled by its financial crisis. India was hobbled by 40 years of socialist mismanagement and only began its slow journey toward economic reform in the early 1990s, some 15 years after China rejected Maoist economic policies. Vietnam, now a unified country of more than 93 million people, was recovering from 30 years of war. Russia suffered from a succession of kleptocracies. The countries that could provide investments, markets and exports to rival China in Asia were not there.

There are signs that this period has ended. Chinese economic growth has slowed. Japan is emerging as an independent military power; it is investing abroad, and its economy may be recovering from its long stagnation. India’s economic growth is now more rapid than China’s and is likely to remain so. Indian military spending is making up for decades of inattention. Indonesia and Vietnam have achieved modest rates of economic growth.

Russia is likely to remain a nuclear superpower with a decaying society. Moscow’s anxiety about Beijing is real but has been suppressed, if only for the time being, by President Vladimir Putin’s need to find a friend after his Ukraine excursion. Russia’s national anxiety will re-emerge when he goes.

Does this mean that all is well and the U.S. can turn away from Asia? Hardly. It will be at least a generation before other Asian countries have, in the aggregate, enough economic and military power to create some kind of equilibrium relative to China.

The period in which they catch up with China is likely to be dangerous. Facing multiple rising Asian powers that are divided and smaller, Beijing will try to woo, thrash or thwart them one by one. Only the U.S. can provide the security umbrella within which the balance of Asia can be safely restored.

But unlike the postwar struggle with the Soviet Union, Washington is not facing a choice between an endless Cold War with China or negotiations in which the only question is how much regional influence the U.S. gives up. If Washington is able to deny Beijing the opportunity to achieve easy coercive gains for about 25 years—the amount of time since the Cold War ended—Asia is likely to change in ways that make China a strong country among other strong countries. This would be a satisfactory outcome for Asian countries and the United States. And it ought to be satisfactory to a Chinese leadership that does not seek hegemony.

Mr. Rosen is a professor of national security and military affairs at Harvard.
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